Let’s start with Joan Crawford.
There are three women in the history of cinema whose work I continually turn to for both inspiration and identification and they are Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford. These ladies’ don’t really need an introduction because their lives and work have been so well documented by other fans and writers, but I love ‘em passionately and generally watch one of their films per week. Without further ado:
"Damn it . . . Don't you dare ask God to help me." - Joan Crawford's last words
Joan Crawford (1906-1977): Born Lucille LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, Ms. Crawford came to Hollywood in the mid 1920’s to be an actress in silent pictures. She had a career ranging chronologically from 1925 until 1972. Though her forty-seven year livelihood is the shortest of these three particular women, her grasp on the overall history of cinema is the strongest because it started significantly earlier (in show business years, that is) – she worked through the silent years, the early talkies, the golden age, and teetered off around the rise of the independents. She is probably best remembered for her role as Mildred in Mildred Pierce, the only film for which she won a Best Actress Oscar in 1945, because it encompasses her sizzling persona so accurately in the mainstream world. She generally acted in women’s pictures that put her character in a position of change – a change that mostly revolves around her trying to get out of a relationship with a bad man and move on with her life. She has fury to burn. Watching Joan Crawford get mad makes me feel like I just told someone off, which is kind of a combination feeling between a wonderful adrenaline rush and giddy enthusiasm. I’ve only seen about twenty of her films (basically all of the ones released on DVD), but I love her in nearly all of them. My favorite Crawford flick is The Damned Don’t Cry (195), closely followed by A Woman’s Face (1941), Harriet Craig (1950), and Johnny Guitar (1954). It’s certainly a shame that all of the hard work and dedication Ms. Crawford paid to cinema has all but been thrown back in her face because her…darling…daughter, Christina, chose to write an exaggerated tale of child abuse entitled Mommie Dearest. Crawford was a severe hypochondriac (for example, she washed her hands every ten minutes), but she loved her four children and her youngest daughter, Cathy (her twin, Cindy, died last year) has recently gone on the record to say that Christina fabricated a lot the material in Mommie Dearest. Alas, that’s all she’s known for in pop culture these days and I wish people could get over it and see what a great asset she is/was for us.
* I plan on doing two more posts - one on Ms. Hepburn and the other on Ms. Davis within the next few days. So, stay tuned!